The phenomenon of plant blindness and tree blindness has been well documented the world over and it’s natural for a city folks who are not living in lap of nature anymore to forget the names of the trees, to forget what the leaves could be used for, to forget what the fruits could be used for and unfortunately it’s a problem we are all suffering from and that why during this lockdown I decided to start this unique initiative which I’m hoping I could continue, become a student again and learn about these trees once again in this new article called Talking Trees (part -2).
So, who’s going to help me navigate this mysterious world of trees? Well apart from that World Wide Web we all know; I’m also going to be using pictures from this wonderful website called Flowers of India which has documented a large proportion of the flora that we actually find in our country as well as this book “Jungle Trees of Central India by Pradip Kishen”. This is one of the most wonderful field guides I’ve gone through and this is something I’m doing as a revisit. I’ve left the link of where you can actually purchase this book as well as the link of the website Flowers of India at the end of this article, should you like to at any moment refer to the same.
Amaltas/The Golden Shower (Cassia Fistula)
So our first tree of the day is actually Amaltas or The Golden Shower Tree or as it is known in latin Cassia Fistula. Now, this is a very interesting tree in fact, a very popular ornamental tree, so it’s not that it’s just actually restricted to the jungle, you will often see this along the street sides and along the roadsides in many parts of India because it looks so beautiful with those golden vines of beautiful flowers that are draped all over the tree.
Amaltas is also the state flower of Kerala but apart from its popularity it is also natively found in our Indian jungles, found both in dry deciduous as well as moist deciduous forests. In fact, it is so adaptable you will seeit in varying landscapes and varying habitats. Sometimes you’ll see it on hill tops, sometimes you’ll see it in the thick of the forest. Sometimes you’ll see it in areas whichappear quite dry androcky but here’s the interesting part this tree still does very well in all of those areas. Amaltas would be very easily recognizable when those flowers out but are not always out during the entire year.
The those four characters as always to identify the tree are –
- The leaf
- The bark
- The flower
- The fruit.
1. AMALTAS LEAF
Now, Amaltas as a tree is rarely seen leaf less, in fact, it shed sits leaves in the months of February and March because of course it’s a deciduous tree and it then goes into new leaf somewhere in the month of April so the period is very short. During most of this time you will see that the leaves are those smooth green pointy leaves which are in pairs and you’ll also sometimes see them in this brownish red coppery red colour as well, and that happens when the leaves are actually new.
2. AMALTAS BARK
Bark is not the most reliable feature that you can use to identify this tree because it tends to be a little variable it may be smooth pale gray or it may be also with dark scabs on it.
3. AMALTAS FLOWER
But of course, the most identifiable characteristic of this tree is its flowers and well, if you see an Amaltas flush, you can’t really miss it even if you area little bit of a distance awayand it is a truly gorgeous vision to see these beautiful golden flowers hanging like vines, interestingly, it happens during two points of the year during the months of April and May, as well as during the monsoons and you are a lucky person if you actually see this vision because it’s truly satisfying.
4. AMALTAS FRUIT
Interestingly, though the fertilization of the fruit takes quite a bit of time it may almost be a year after those flowers come out that the fruit fertilizes and interestingly the seed dispersal is happening through a very natural rhythm because the fruits which are these long brown dark pods basically fall on the ground and the pulp is really liked by a lot of animals, so monkeys, jackals all of these animals may actually feed on them and that’s how the seed dispersal takes place.
Now, there have been a variety of applications that Amaltas has also been used for in our culture there are certain tanning dyes that are derived from its bark much like Khar. It also has a very tough heart wood which is used for agricultural implements and interestingly, in Ayurveda it has a very interesting name known as Aragvadha, which basically means disease killer and yes there have been certain properties to show that it acts as a laxative but you have to be very careful because much like other Cassiasas well there are many parts of this tree which are also toxic. Well that’s about the popular Amaltas.
Dhavda or Anogeissus Latifolia
Now, let’s go on to our next tree, Anogeissus Latifolia or Dhavda.
This tree has quite a distinctive structure, you’ll actually see the trunk going up and up and up and up and there are no branches whatsoever,
and then suddenly when the tree reaches a height of approximately 9 to 10 meters that is when you actually see the branches really sprouting out.
So, that has actually led to an interesting analogy in Pradeep Christian’s book where he mentions this as gangly cadets with very short haircuts and that’s a very interesting analogy to actually remember these trees by.
Now, this particular tree is not as adaptable as some of the other species that we’ve discussed and it really only grows well in areas where there is going to be a good amount of organic matter in the soil, soil which will be able to hold the water and it doesn’t get drained off too fast.
1. DHAVDA LEAF
Now coming to the leaves of this particular tree, well the clue is in the tree’s name Analgesis later Folia Latte Folia basically meaning broad leaved. The leaves basically are broad or they may or may not have a pointy tip but they are alternately paired and they may sometimes be green or they may also be this coppery red colour especially during the dry season. Much like other trees as well, that we’ve discussed it’s a decedent tree which means it basically sheds its leaves and that’s usually around February and then the new leaves coming tends to be a little bit variable depending on local conditions
2. DHAVDA BARK
It is before usually the monsoon the bark of this tree also tends to be a little bit variable and it may be this pale grey white or having a flaky structure.
3. DHAVDA FLOWER
The flowers of this tree tend to be quite different as there are these two to five flowers small flowers bunched together that may be either green or purplish pink in colour and you have these wires coming out which are actually the stamens, which is the male reproductive part of the flower and it looks quite wiry as well, so that’s another way to actually identify the flower.
4. DHAVDA FRUIT
Fruit actually looks like a form of the flower as well as if it has fused it’s a very curious looking fruit isn’t it, you can remember this particular fruit by its pointy tips and that reddish brown colour is actually what you’ll see during the dry season when you see this tree from a distance that’s the colour of these fruits.
This particular tree has actually found to have a very high amount of gallotannins so that’s a type of molecule which makes it very viable to be used as a fuel wood as well as for tanning applications.
This particular tree also has a connection with silk, now if you recall how silk is actually made you actually take those cocoons of those caterpillars and then you boil them and that’s how you derive silk, right well, this is the food plant of a particular variety of those mods specifically the south Indian small tesor which is a type of silk moth, so this is an important tree with that application as well.
Another important product that is actually derived from this tree is gum garden and this tree doesn’t usually have to be you know cut or anything like that, actually the resin often oozes out naturally and that particular resin is now used in a variety of different applications in the industry ranging from foods beverages and even in drugs as a binding agent.
Salai or Boswellia
I’m considering if we should cover one more tree, all right, let’s do one more. So let’s look at Salai or Boswellia also known as the incense tree.
Now Salai might be among the toughest trees that you’ll actually come to know because I’ve seen salah in very rocky plateaus where there’s not a lot of other vegetation. This tree also has shown to be resistance to forest fires, resistance to excessive browsing by herbivores so this is a tree which is really toughened up and hardened to meet those poor conditions in which other trees may not be able to survive. Because of this toughness it has actually been favoured for a forestation practices as well basically areas which have degraded over time, this particular species is planted to kind of renew that habitat.
1. SALAI LEAF
Now the leaves of these trees are quite distinctive, you have leaflets something we discussed before but here there is just one level of differentiation so you have these 14 to 15 pairs of leaflets and then one single leaflet right at the end as well without a pair. Also you will see that at the margins or the border of these particular leaves there these rounded sort of teeth or serrations that are also there now because this is a tree which has adapted to hardy conditions again as an energy conservation strategy. This particular tree goes leafless for quite a while so it may shed its leaves as early as December or January and then you’ll see this tree in new leaf perhaps right towards the beginning of mid of June.
2. SALAI BARK
Interestingly, the bark again is not reliable though you may actually see it having a peeling papery structure.
3. SALAI FLOWER
The flowers again look a little different they are actually growing like these bunches of white or pale pink flowers along a big pink hairy stalk, so you see this particular stalk actually come up and see be able to see it at a distance.
4. SALAI FRUIT
The fruits of this particular tree also go through a transition phase, they first start out like as Pradeep Krishnan puts it like in the shape of a bladder and then the colour actually goes from green to pink and to finally pale brown.
The flowering of this tree basically takes place during the months of February to March while the fruit actually comes out during the months of April to May.
The interesting thing that you’ll remember about this tree was something I mentioned a little while earlier about it, being the incense tree and yes there’s a resin called Salai google, which is derived from this tree which is used for the manufacturing of incense sticks as well and of course incense sticks are very popular in Indian homes as well for you know adding a fragrance to our homes and during a variety of religious functions as well. But interestingly, this particular resin also has an application in the medical field and it has been in fact scientifically validated to also show some efficacy towards the treatment of Osteo Arthritis of the knee, so basically, this has been known to be used in treatment of joints that are actually there in the knee as well, but that’s about the commercial bit of this tree.
You’ll be happy to know that India is also a proud host to this particular tree in fact it is an endemic species that is actually found here in the Indian Subcontinent.
Link to the Flowers of India website: http://www.flowersofindia.net/
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Amaltas – J.M.Garg / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…)
Amaltas leaf- Jim Conrad / Public domain Amaltas bark – I, J.M.Garg / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by-sa/3.0)
Amaltas flowers: Sarangib (https://pixabay.com/photos/flower-gol…)
Amaltas fruit – J.M.Garg / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…)
Dhavda tree – Dinesh Valke [CC BY-SA 2.0] Anogeissus latifolia image 2- https://www.flickr.com/photos/dinesh_… 6499203541
Anogeissus latifolia leaf- Yercaud-elango [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Anogeissus latifolia – Vinayaraj / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/… 4.0)
Anogeissus latifolia Bark – Dinesh Valke [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Anogeissus latifolia flower- http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog… Axle%20Wood%20Tree.jpg
Anogeissus latifolia flower – Vinayaraj [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Anogeissus latifolia Fruit – Vinayaraj [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Salai tree- Dinesh Valke from Thane, India / CC BY-SA (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)
Salai tree leaf- J.M.Garg / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/… 4.0)
Salai tree image 2- https://www.flickr.com/photos/dinesh_… photostream/
Salai tree bark – J.M.Garg / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-sa/4.0)
Salai tree flower and leaf – Satish Phadke (http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog…)
Salai tree fruit – Arvind Kadus (http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog…)
Tussar silk moth – Davidvraju / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by-sa/4.0)
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